Coker explains recent departures

Bellator MMA CEO Scott Coker spoke recently with Nolan King for MMA Junkie about Thursday's event, welterweight champ Douglas Lima challenging Gegard Mousasi for the middleweight belt in the main event, the recent departure of 31 fighters, and more.

“The [number of released fighters] is really a reflection of where the company is going, right? One of the things about running this company with 250 to 270 to sometimes almost 300 athletes is there are only so many TV spots. There’s only so much room on the roster.

“Sometimes fighters retire, like Pat Curran. He retired. Jon Fitch, he retired. Sometimes there are fighters whose contracts run out. That’s just what it is. We chose not to re-sign them, or they went somewhere else. To me, it’s just 30 fighters that have basically gone, and we signed 30 new fighters. We need to make room for some of the new athletes on the roster.

“Really, it’s a period over what? This is the first time this has happened since February, right? You’re talking about 30 athletes in a 10-month period. You’re talking about three athletes a month going in and out. It’s really not that much. It just seems like a lot because we haven’t done it since COVID hit. That’s been about 10 months.”

Coker also discussed the main event.

“The issue with Gegard fighting, let’s say, Rory [Macdonald], when Rory wanted to come up. Rory was so small. He couldn’t hang with the size of Gegard, and Gegard just basically took it to him. This is a little bit different because Lima is a big 170 pounder. I bet you he’s probably walking around at 200. For him to come to 185, it’s not that bad. When I was looking at both of them at the weigh-ins, I’m like, Lima looks bigger than Gegard to me right now. The size of the athlete and the physicality is not going to be a problem for Lima. It’s going to be very interesting. Now, it’s going to be about strategy and tactics and who can execute."

“Lima came to me with this fight. It wasn’t like we had to talk him into it or we asked Gegard, ‘Do you want to do this?’ Lima came to us and said, ‘I want to fight Gegard, and I want to fight for the 185-pound belt. I said, ‘OK.’ That’s how this fight came about. It wasn’t us having to coax these guys into it. To me, if the fighters want to fight other athletes, and it makes sense for everybody, then let’s get it on. To me, it’s about what fans want to see.”

And the Bellator boss discussed the East Coast friendly event start time of 8:00 p.m. ET.

“The time frame is really based on the commitments CBS Sports Network has with football and different sports," he explained. "You might see a little bit of hour here, hour there flexibility. We have a three-fight card. We have a tremendous amount of commercial load we have to put into the show, and we have a two-hour stop that has to happen because they’re going right into another – football or something. We have to deliver the show in two hours. For me, it’s better safe than sorry. They mapped it all out. They said, ‘If we don’t do it this way and the fights go over, we’re going to be in an issue.’ So we said, ‘Let’s do three fights and be good to our partners.’ That’s why it’s a three-fight card.”